HR leaders revealed that 2022 was a tough year, with most people having experienced a lot of burnout.
A group of HR professionals recently took part in a CHRO South Africa Community Conversation to wrap up 2022 and take a look back at the past three years.
While the pandemic is over, most companies are still dealing with its remnants and the impact it has had on employee wellbeing and the success of the business.
Sharing their experiences, HR leaders spoke about how the year has been difficult in terms of getting employees to adjust to a post-pandemic era.
Reflecting on her year, Malisha Awunor, human resources director at EOH, said she found 2022 to be hard and it showed in the stats.
“In our space, the highlight that stood out for me was the development and launch of our virtual reality product. We have an environment that allows us to drive innovation and move beyond being a cost centre. We’ve developed a product called In My Shoes, which is about addressing unconscious bias in the workplace through virtual reality.”
EOH, Malisha said, also launched a new strategy called GET (Growth, Efficiency and Talent), which puts people at the forefront of the business. According to Malisha, there is no more exciting space to be in than people and culture.
“The traditional approach is always that we should end the year strong. I think we should end the year soft, with great focus on self-care and rest, because with us being the custodians of people, there is never really a focus on what we can really be doing for ourselves. My challenge to my fellow colleagues is: let’s be gentle with ourselves and come back in 2023 strong.”
Malisha said she has challenged her team and herself to move away from the traditional way of doing things, including customising the employee experience so that they don’t lose anyone on the journey.
Looking after human capital
Stephanie Fouche, HR director at Clarins, said following the two years of the pandemic, the company focused on ways to connect with staff with the hybrid work model in place. Her company moved away from the annual performance review process to a more continuous feedback model, so that performance is discussed throughout the year. “The annual performance review has been replaced with a more continuous feedback process throughout the year leaving the year-end discussion to focus mostly on career, development and wellbeing,” she said.
She said the company has focused a lot on DE&I, which is an important focus area as a group globally.
The company also launched their global HR system, which does recruitment, learning, performance management, career and talent management. She echoed Malisha’s sentiment on having had cases of burnout in 2022. “We are finding that our younger generations with little work experience are battling to handle stress causing them to burn out. Stress management, resilience, EQ and mindfulness need to be a focus in the new year.”
Stephanie said in 2023, the company would capitalise on the development of lower than management level employees, because, “We have been focusing quite a lot on developing management and have now started to grow the next group of non-managers with high potential, to be able to be our succession for management roles.”
Challenges facing employees
Neridha Moodley, leader of people and culture at SNG Thornton, said everybody wants to get paid more because prices of food, petrol and other necessities have been so much higher in the past three years.
“We focused on putting our people first making sure that we did not retrench during the lockdown.”
She shared that the company got everybody back at the office but that came with a lot of pushback, especially from the younger generation, who prefer to work from home. “We’ve had to subsequently enforce that everybody returns to the office due to client demands.”
She also shared that because people can work from anywhere now, some of their staff members were poached by their competitors overseas. “We also introduced our own global mobility programme as a retention strategy. I think there is a bigger scope for global mobility going forward, hence this is an area we are focusing on.”
They also noticed that some of their staff were lacking social skills due to working from home when the pandemic hit, and they are now working on programmes that will get staff to relearn socialisation.
Muriel Sokkie, Aspen’s group executive: human capital, said she had been on a sabbatical from June 2020 until she joined Aspen in May this year, but she too had sensed a lot of burnout not only from the team, but from senior level. She said in 2023 the company will focus more on building a culture programme.
Michele Seroke, CHRO at Motus, said they started 2022 off with a bang. She attributed the success of the company to the company’s strategy. “Motus has recently posted record financial results. One of the drivers and contributors to our strong performance was because of the deepened maturity of our Importer brands which are benefitting from the ongoing structural shift away from luxury brands in the SA vehicle market. Customers are increasingly considering our Importer brands as an attractive alternative that offer an increasingly strong value proposition.”
A big thing for the business, she said, has been the drive towards digitisation, which was precipitated by the pandemic. “Our innovation and digitisation efforts to support changing customer behaviour accelerated in the past year. Motus invested in systems and our people who use these systems. So much so that most of the vehicle buying steps can be done virtually.”
She said the company was now facing a challenge of fluctuations and interest rates. “We are seeing we need to drive cost containment from an HR perspective. We have to attract the right people and create an environment where people want to work.”
Webber Wentzel’s HR Director,Nametsegang Maruping, who moved from a technology solutions company to a law firm in June, said she found that there were similar challenges between the two industries. She said the pandemic warranted a shift from the old leadership styles and there was a need to be inclusive. She also shared that employee wellness has been one of their biggest focus areas.